Go for picnic, photo shoot and birding

What you need to know:

  • Adventure. The nature excursions among other adventures at the Botanical Gardens, Entebbe will not leave you the same, writes Edgar R. Batte.

One of my first sightings was the ugly beauty of the Black and White Casqued Hornbill peached on a dry tree branch, its head looking west and its eyes visible to the camera.

In a minute, it opened its beak in a noisy manner that announced its presence to other birds that went into flight, perhaps scared off by the noise. It followed them half way, flapping its feathers in a rather loud flight.

I was later to discover it was time to get romantic. In a split second, he was joined by the excited lover and in what seemed an inseparable union, the male took a look at the female, and their bills touched in a beaky kiss, the former bigger and more pronounced over the smaller and mumble ones of the fairer one. 

The plant life and trees that form a forested backdrop and one-kilometre shoreline stretch of the fresh water Lake Victoria are a perfect home for indigenous and migratory birds which are easily citable and heard while one strolls, rides or drives through the gardens.

Most of the migratory birds fly from Europe running from cold and harsh winter to Uganda to enjoy the summer weather of sunshine and rains and return to Europe or other parts of the world when the weather there changes for the better.

Save for their occasional prattling, the Entebbe Botanical Gardens are the town’s peaceful corner, a place to go for a picnic, a walk in a green and natural environment by Lake Victoria, a birding excursion, ideal for photography or other visual shoots, an education or research sojourn.

You might want to know that some of the scenes in the Tarzan films were videoed at the gardens during the 1940s. On a sunny Thursday as the sun primed to go down, there were people relaxing under tree shades and on the well-tended gardens.

Monkeys preening each other.  Photos | Edgar R Batte. 

One family caught my eye. Beside their parked car, they sat on a mat, the woman rested her head on the man’s chest while they chatted and laughed as they watched their baby run to and from her mother’s lap.

Whenever she embraced the mother, her smile revealed two front milk teeth.

At the lower end of the turf, a couple holding hands made their way from the shorelines of the lake whose waves were gently hitting against the sand.

Somewhere on the sprawling lawns, monkeys were playing too, taking turns to tend to one another. Then agile young ones hang on a branch, supporting their body using legs, and they nimbly kept taking turns as playfully slapping each other much to the chagrin of their parents who only occasionally threw a glance and went back to grooming each other; checking each other other’s ears, armpits and mitts.

For a moment, I kept a distance while photographing them until the guide, Bright Suubi said I could get nearer for close-up shots. In his presence, they even came close.

From the ground, they plucked and fed off grass and tiny composts from old trees that doubled as they home and playground. Other folks could be seen taking walks, some plugged in with headphones and earphones, probably listening to music or podcasts as they connected with nature’s abundance.

Some kinfolks could not resist stopping for a moment to capture the lively wild primates’ relish in the green zone. As we combed through the garden, my curiosity was drawn to the marked trees which Suubi told me is one way to help visitors identify and learn about the different species.

In an earlier interview with John Wasswa Mulumba, the principal research officer and curator of the Botanical Gardens, I learnt that the 125-year-old facility has close to more than 500 species of plants while the National Gene Bank has close to 5,000 different samples of plants collected from either communities or from the world and kept under frozen conditions.

Besides the plants, you might want to appreciate the general landscape of the gardens that sprawls in hilly and valley dimensions, giving a visitor a quick understanding of how our ecosystems are and an example of natural forests Uganda is proud of.

If you are looking for therapy, go to the forest, close your eyes and listen to the sound of nature. Let us feed your soul, rejuvenate your body and invigorate your spirit.

At a glance

The National Botanical Gardens of Uganda, commonly known as the Botanical Gardens Entebbe, are located in Entebbe, Uganda. They were laid out in 1898 by the first curator, A Whyte, close to the shores of Lake Victoria. The gardens are divided into different zones, including a rainforest zone.